Today I invited the crew to get their own back at the
lies and treachery that has been aimed at them through my blogs. The following
is their take on the expedition so far:
would be a lie to say I was mildly apprehensive about this trip. Having
only met The Boss for a brief chat over a glass of wine and dinner in London in
September, his sanity (or otherwise) was as yet unproven. After spending time on
South Georgia and having met many high-latitude yachtsmen, I was aware that
steel or aluminium hulls were the norm for visiting areas where the charting of
hazards is less than comprehensive, and where ice poses a risk too ephemeral to
appear on charts. I even knew of some strong wooden boats that had visited the
Antarctic. But fibreglass? However I shouldn’t have worried. Mina2 is a strong
boat, and since we left Ushuaia on New Year’s Day I have had no reservations
about the suitability of the vessel to the task. The sanity of the skipper, and
indeed the rest of the crew, however, remains to be tested…
have grown up with tales of the Antarctic since I was very small. My father
worked for the British Antarctic Survey in the 1970s when sledges were
dog-powered and there were no women south of Cape Horn. After I left university,
I also worked for BAS, spending thirty months at the sub-Antarctic biological
research station on Bird Island, from where I returned in June 2010, so I have
experienced the wildlife, icebergs, and 9000ft mountains draped with enormous
glaciers. However, no amount of photographs and stories have softened the
experience for me, and each day I continue to be overwhelmed by the things we
see on this voyage.
only previous experience of seasickness came whilst crossing the Minch from
Ullapool to Stornoway in a force 7, when rather than being out in the fresh air,
I chose to sit down below and attempt to seduce other crew members with Oasis
and Travis songs strummed on a badly-tuned guitar, resulting in a swift dash to
the heads. But the sea conditions as we left Bahia Nassau (AKA Bahia Nausea) and
emerged from the shelter of Cape Horn left me feeling rather off-colour to say
the least, for 24hrs. But the sun emerged, the wind moderated, Venetia’s
‘special pills’ (whatever they were…) worked their magic, and the albatrosses
made for a captivating distraction from the queasiness. By the time we crossed
the 60th parallel, everyone was feeling fine again.
Deception Island was a fascinating first Antarctic
landfall. Exploring the old BAS base and whaling station and seeing other crew
members meet their first penguin and seal made the whole visit feel very
special. Personally I would have felt unfulfilled had Peter and I not managed a
dip in the volcanically warm waters so was grateful to Tim for allowing us a
pause at Pendulum Cove to wallow like seals in the shallows, before heading
across the Bransfield Strait.
interest in the polar regions relates largely to the animals that live here, all
associated with the seas surrounding the frozen continent (as on land there is
very little habitat to support life), so seeing our first humpback whales in the
Gerlache Strait was a big moment. But my highlight of the trip until now was the
hour or so spent in the company of two minke whales in Wilhelmina Bay, en route
to Cuverville Island. A whale almost as long as the boat rolling on its side and
looking you in the eye is enough to stir up considerable emotion. Even more so
when you capture it on camera! Although, no amount of photographs and stories
will ever be able to transcribe to friends at home about just what this place is
We’ve just arrived at Gabriel Gonzales Videla base, a
Chilean research station in Paradise Harbour, and tomorrow we’ll visit the
Argentines at Almirante Brown base. I’m excited to see how the other nations
live in the Antarctic, following my experiences with BAS.
Thereafter, although restricted by weather, sea ice
conditions and our own abilities, we should have another week of exploring.
Every day we’ve spent down here has thrown incredible sights at us (this
morning’s highlight was a humpback whale coming within 50yds of Mina2 whilst at
anchor off Cuverville Island!) and I look forward to it continuing. I know I am
not going to want to leave Antarctica when the time comes, so I must find ways
of returning. Better get saving for that (metal-hulled) boat of my
Firstly, I want to put the record straight: Ben, Emma’s
fiancé, is a lawyer but does not specialise in libel – sorry Tim. The truth of
the matter is that everything is SO amazing here that there has been no need to
exaggerate or tell stories to make the blog more interesting. It is just
impossible to describe how incredible this place is, words are just not enough.
To be here in a yacht is just all the more special. The Minke Whales “playing”
with us was a highlight, they were just so close to us for so long. At the same
time we were surrounded by scenery you cannot imagine, but that was not all,
there were seals on the ice flows and penguins around us in the sea and before
very long we saw Hump Back Whales too. Talk about sensory overload! As always a
huge thank you , Tim, for all the hard work you have put in to make this happen.
This blog really only needed one word WOW!
Having come off ice watch (at anchor, armed with a good
book) at 4am this morning I had a well deserved lie in but, much as we have got
to take a caring interest in each
others welfare, even I was a bit taken aback when, as I belatedly appeared for
my porridge the skip enquired “Now how’s your little Pinkie Richard?”
response, “Err……” showed a shameful lack of gratitude for yesterday I dropped a
rock on my finger (as one does out sailing) and Tim produced a most impressive
First aid kit which not only sorted out my finger but has temporarily exempted
me from washing up duties.
seriously Mina2 has looked after us magnificently, in good part thanks to being
so well prepared by Tim for the not inconsiderable challenges – and most
importantly we are a happy crew.
They don’t mention that on Frozen Planet but the truth is that really
they smell completely repellent.
Thank goodness they’re also incredibly CUTE! Even when they’re stealing little rocks
from each other’s nests they look kind of adorable. But it’s not just penguins that we’ve
seen. As previously mentioned, we
also saw whales. In an attempt to
film them underwater I managed to snap one of our only iceberg-poking poles (I’m
not sure if this is their official name but I think it is). That means that we’ve resorted to
fending off huge chunks of ice from smashing into the boat’s hull using a shard
of pole the size of a cricket bat.
Still, all is very well indeed (and I got the whale footage too). This place really is unbelievable. I’d become so focused on the crossing of
Drake’s Passage that I’d sort of forgotten about the fact that two weeks
cruising around Antarctica awaited us at the other side but ever since we
arrived we’ve been met with an endless stream of amazing experiences. I can’t begin to imagine what the next
ten days will bring. And hopefully
I’ll have got used to the penguin stench by then too.